Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Do Comic Books Suck or Is He Just Another Crabby Blogger?

After Greg commented on Jim’s ridiculous post on How Comics Suck yesterday, it probably isn’t fair for me to pile on. But, then again, this blog was never about fair so I am chiming it.

I agree with Greg, in principle, that comic books are better today than they were 20 or 30 years ago. I think the quality of the books is higher, writers are telling stories that are more complex and mature, and artists are drawing even bigger and better landscapes. I also think there is a level of independent publisher activity not seen since the birth of the direct market. There may be fewer readers than there were in the 50s but what we have is amazingly better.

In terms of Jims post, I think, at one time or another, every fan has said “Comic Books Suck” because fans go through ebbs and flows in their love of comics. Just like fine wine, some years are better than others. We all continue to buy books and read the stories but we complain a little bit louder when the crop isn’t as good. In this case, Jim is in a bad place and taking it out on the industry as a whole. I think Jim’s statement isn’t based upon the books themselves but upon a personal mid-life comic book crisis that he is experiencing.

The mid-life comic book crisis is a relatively new phenomenon that appears to be making normally happy comic book readers into total grouches. It appears to be mainly effect readers who have been reading for more than 20 years, which includes me, and I think the severity is based upon how long you’ve been reading comics.

I really believe the root cause of the mid-life comic book crisis is age. I think we have grown up with characters for so long that it’s hard to accept when the characters no longer grow with us. In order to illustrate my point, let’s look at Spiderman.

Jim started reading Spiderman when Peter Parker, like Jim, was still in high school. There was a bond because they were at the same place in life. He watched Peter Parker move out of his house and get his first apartment. Jim saw Peter graduate from High School, go to college and get a job and so on. Peter Parker’s life paralleled his own in so many ways that it was easy to keep reading. To be fair, Peter was already in college when I started reading but I quickly caught up and we were all in the same happy place together.

Jim and I were growing up and Spiderman was growing up with us. But one day, something odd occurred. Spiderman stopped growing up.

I don’t know when it happened but, one day I was older than Peter Parker. The path my life was taking was no longer his. And neither Peter Parker nor Spiderman were going to follow, or lead, me. That has had a huge impact on my enjoyment of the characters.

As much as I pretend to be, I’m no longer in my twenties. I don’t live paycheck to paycheck. I have a career; I’m not struggling to be start one. I no longer have anything in common with Peter Parker. I have the wisdom, however limited, of having lived more than 30 years. I don’t claim to know it all but I don’t want to read about a whiney twenty something who can’t get his life together.

It took me a long, long time to realize that I had to leave Spiderman behind. I needed to leave my old playthings and find new ones. While it was a painful process, I did it in the quiet of my own home. I didn’t use a blog to vent my frustrations to the whole world. But, some of us are more private than others in our pain.

So, what do I say to my buddy Jim? DUDE LET IT GO! Spiderman isn’t going to change. Neither is Batman, Superman, or Captain America. READ OTHER COMICS! Leave the mega crossovers and world shattering events to the young pups like Greg who they are aimed at. There are so many good stories from DC’s Vertigo line, Marvel’s Soleil line, Fantagraphics, NBM, Boom, and IDW to name a few that you don’t need to torture yourself every month with Levitz’s LSH.

So, ignore Jim’s rants on how comics suck. He’s just having another hot flash. Comics don’t suck. Jim just needs to learn to look in new places to find the great ones.


  1. Geez I said it was a malaise about super hero stuff. I have also stated writing is better today, but partly because writers are allowed to be better. I'm sure some of the older guys had more sophisticated work in them if they were allowed, but comics were written down to an audience. Plus I have sang the praises of the indies many times. Still if I inspired you and Greg to take up a gauntlet, it makes for a good discussion.

  2. While a little harsh, I think the crisis idea has some validity. The trick (and it's always the same trick) is ONLY BUY THE COMICS YOU LIKE. And definitely, dumping the crossover events is a great place to start.

    And I'm totally with you on Spider-man. As a middle-aged comics reader, Spider-man and in general books starring teens in school just don't do it for me, but I do think that is age-related.

    One of the great things about comics today is the trade paperbacks. Jim should maybe go more that route and stop reading Green Lantern. -Urthona

  3. And then sometimes it's nice to drop books you like, but can live without. I just dropped all my Boom titles: Irredeemable, Incorruptible, and Androids. I had to cut my budget back 25% and it was an easy place to cut (Now to sell off those issues...)

    I can still enjoy teen-age heroes, if they're written well (like Spider-girl). I just can't stand to see my favorite characters stop acting like the heroes they were (getting drunk and sleeping with their roommate ASM #601). Marvel is still writing down to the audience, it's just to the new 20-somethings. Well, I can't really identify with that lifestyle, which seems to be more extreme than when I was that age. Just because you can write almost anything, doesn't mean you should.

    There isn't a lot out there that I'm excited about right now, but there's enough to keep me buying new material (Logans Run, Super Heroes, Thor Mighty Avenger, Archie Married, etc.) Besides there are plenty of back issue collections to catch up on.

    Jim's perfectly within his right as a fan to complain about LSH each month, because is SHOULD be good and it's frustrating when something isn't as good as it could be. I tried the Robinson/Bagley JLA for months before finally giving up. If something is good and you miss it the first time around you can always get the HC or trade for 50% off or the floppies for $1 each at comic-con next year.